Saturday, September 19, 2015

Seeds of Revolution

There are approximately 300 million guns under private ownership in the United States, with too many Americans believing that they have an absolute legal right to use them against any government they believe oppresses them. The NRA tells them so. Lots of military assault weapons with big magazines in the mix, under a sadly misinterpreted view of the Second Amendment (ignoring the “well regulated militia” words). “Stand your ground,” “your home is your castle,” and “open carry” have become rights in many rural value states.
We have the most polarized economic split in the developed world with a system of government that clearly favors those who have wealth and make their money from investment and trading. From Citizens United to loopholes and tax rates that only matter to those with wealth, we’ve become a nation that caters to the rich to the exclusion of most everyone else. Our standard of living is declining along with the buying power of our falling discretionary income. The numbers of those in the middle class are contracting too as upward social mobility has all but vaporized.
Political lines are increasingly being drawn on the “higher power” notion of religious beliefs. We are also moving from a nation of white Americans with traditional values rooted in our rural heritage to a country of racial and ethnic minorities that are much more based on urban values. 80% of our country is settled in and around the big cities, and under 2% of our nation work on farms. We’ve enfranchised women to have the vote, and we weathered that change quite well. But our current state of government accords much more voting power to rural communities than urban communities, with one rural voter often having the power of several city voters. That level of disenfranchisement endures.
Whether it’s the effect of the New Jersey Compromise (Ben Franklin’s structure that has two Senators from each state regardless of population), gerrymandering or restrictive voter ID laws, rural voters have been able to control the majority of state legislatures, governorships and both Houses of Congress despite the fact that an electoral determination based on sheer popular representation would work a deeply different result.
Deep in the inner city, gangs have long since left the world of accepting the incumbent authorities as having any power over them. They have their own rules, govern their own communities with clear gun-driven brutality, and have pretty much withdrawn from being a functioning part of our country. Right wing militias have formed, numbering in the hundreds. “While groups such as the Posse Comitatus existed as early as the 1980s, the movement gained momentum after controversial standoffs with government agents in the early 1990s. By the mid-1990s, groups were active in all 50 US states with membership estimated at between 20,000 and 60,000.” Wikipedia. A surge in such organizations occurred following the election of Barack Obama.
But the anger against Washington incumbents is growing, from the right and the left. We now have the largest group of people who think that the United States needs a ground-up rebuild at any time since the Civil War. The rural vs. urban values conflict in the Civil War was never completely resolved, as Confederate flags and names on government and NGO buildings can attest. But the underlying anger has now risen to the level where the potential of anger morphing into armed conflict has reached heights not seen since The War between the States.
“A brand new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that 72 percent of Americans believe that politicians cannot be trusted and two-thirds think the country’s political system is dysfunctional. A not insignificant share of folks openly embrace radicalism: 21 percent of those polled would rather the next president ‘tear down’ the political system and ‘start over’ than try to ‘fix’ it. Six in 10 Republicans believe the next president should come from outside the existing political establishment.
“A CBS/YouGov survey of the early states, published [September 13th], found another barometer of anger at Washington: 81 percent of conservatives in Iowa and 72 percent in South Carolina think congressional Republicans have compromised ‘too much’ with President Obama.
“With those numbers, it’s hardly astonishing that two guys who have never held elected office – heck, they haven’t even run for office before – get a combined 53 percent of the vote among registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in our poll. Donald Trump managed only to get stronger since the last time we were in the field. He’s the choice of 33 percent, up 9 points since mid-July. Ben Carson is second at 20 percent, 14 points higher than our July poll.” Daily 202, Washington Post, September 14th.
“Tearing down” the system and “starting over” are different words for “revolution.” And with so many guns in the system, it is anything but certain that such massive change would occur in the United States peacefully. What the differing factions want after a “tear down” is very different depending on whether they are drawn to the left or right. With rural values voters having the bulk of the guns – the NRA is not a liberal organization – and with that faction slowly losing any hope of holding their existing power as demographic changes are set to overwhelm them, it is clearly not too early to wrap out heads around at rapidly-accelerating anger that is willing to risk it all… one way or another. If we do not learn to get along – and we seem to be moving in precisely the opposite direction – we do in fact run the risk of losing the United States of America.
I’m Peter Dekom, and unless we relearn the ability to compromise, we really risk losing it all.

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